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Car Hire - Geneva - France or Swiss Side?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I am skiing in Switzerland this season and need to hire a car from Geneva.

What is the difference between hiring from the Swiss side or the French side. The French side rates appear to be about half the rate of the swiss side. Is there a reason for this and is there anything stopping me from hiring from the French side then travelling into Switzerland.

Any advice//knowledge much appreciated.

Thanks
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cham08, This question is a traditional hornets nest.
The French side cars do not come with a Swiss motorway pass (vignette) so if you use a Swiss motorway you have to buy one.
French side may or may not come with any winter equipment included. Swiss side always (in my experience) have winter tyres and chains included at no extra cost.
The French side can be difficult to find. There are maps on the (Geneva airport website). If it helps imagine the entire airport is in Switzerland but with a French corridor into it.
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The only thing stopping you from driving to CH from FR is the CHF40 "vignette" that you need to be allowed to drive on Swiss highways.

You'll probably land within the Swiss portion of the airport, and have to find your way through the special doorway that leads to the French side.

Also, when returning the car, DON'T follow signs to Geneva Airport. Follow signs to Ferney/Gex or follow the shore of the lake through the city if you feel brave. If you go to GVA you will be on the Swiss side which is a LONG drive to the French entrance (which is down a single track road just the other side of a road tunnel - blink and you'll miss it.)

We hire from the French side every time, due to the reduced cost, but it's a bit of a faff due to the above.
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Last few years I've often found no real difference in price. Unless you are saving £50+ I'd stick with the Swiss side, far easier and you'll have snow tyres, chains etc.
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Quote:

Last few years I've often found no real difference in price. Unless you are saving £50+ I'd stick with the Swiss side, far easier and you'll have snow tyres, chains etc.

I'd agree with that, though with the proviso that you DON'T always get chains on the Swiss side - you must check. But friends of ours who didn't, did manage to get the money they'd had to shell out back from Europcar, when they drove back to the airport.

If there's a big saving, there are detailed instructions on how to get through to the French side of the airport, elsewhere on SHs.
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cham08, also, I think the French desks have shorter hours, which could be tedious.

And, there are faffs to be had when crossing the Franco-Swiss border inside the airport.
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Quote:

there are faffs to be had when crossing the Franco-Swiss border inside the airport

one of them being that it sometimes closes quite early - someone can be sent off to open it, but it can take ages, as I found one time when I'd left my car in a car park on the French side, faute de mieux wink
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Said it before but I will say it again, you do always get winter tyres on the car at the swiss side but these are not necessarily included in the price even though they are not 'optional', depends on the broker and supplier. Chains may or may not be in the car and you may or may not be charged extra. Check carefully and shop around. Do a forum search on here too if you dare Laughing
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sarah, good point. I once whiled away some time waiting for a friend on a late plane picking up all the car hire leaflets from the various companies. They just about all had the winter pack as an extra - and you're not the only person to have been stung for the additional charge, on arrival. I asked one of the companies about the charge and he said "for English hirers they're always included". Whatever that might mean. rolling eyes

the charges on arrival for additional drivers can also be steep.
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must not post on another Geneva car hire thread........must not post on another Geneva car hire thread........must not post on another Geneva car hire thread........must not post on another Geneva car hire thread........must not post on another Geneva car hire thread........

It's not working..............................must leave my desk NOW and go have tea (that's the meal we have in Yorkshire and not the great British beverage)
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France, Swiss side are fussy f*ckers who charged me 1000 Euros for a scratch I hadn't even noticed on the bumper of a car I hired! Bloke even said to me the French don't care but we do as if I was going to be impressed!
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Quote:

And, there are faffs to be had when crossing the Franco-Swiss border inside the airport


which seem to get more each year, with stairs etc. After our last trip we decided definitely not to hire from the French side again - particularly if we were taking skis.
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[quote]
which seem to get more each year
[/quote Every time I do it, the system seems different. It's particularly Kafkaesque if arrivals have no entry papers for Switzerland, as they emerge onto the French side minus baggage. That might be different now, with Switzerland in Schengen, but it's something I've battled with several times in the past, together with the decision of whether to then drive them back into Switzerland and out along the motorway to Bardonnex, hoping nobody will ask to see their passports. I don't know the background but it seems there is some kind of war going on, and the Swiss side of things are determined nobody will ever find the French side - as evidenced in the signs for the airport all leading back to the Swiss side even when you've managed to exit the motorway correctly and are following the signs for Ferney. Even in Ferney Voltaire itself (which is French of course) the only sign to the airport is a teeny poxy little one, right on the junction with the barbed-wire enclosed road into the airport. French signposting is generally good, but I don't think there's an advanced sign for that junction even at the big roundabout immediately to the north.

However, if you need a big supermarket shop near the airport, the Ferney side is very convenient.
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 You know it makes sense.
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cham08, Swiss side for the reasons above plus the local police will see you as a foreign tourist and be less likely to pull you over. French hire cars will have non local registration plates and you will be more likely to be pulled for a tyre check and stopped by customs officers close to borders.
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Last winter I did both - two hires from the French side, one from the Swiss - choice was down to the best deal nothing else - all booked through Car3000
In my experience, both sides have positives & negatives - especially now the Swiss car hires desks have moved.
French side - slightly harder to get to the hire desks but queues are less or non-existent - direct access to the cars so loading is easier & quicker - slightly longer drive to get out of the airport & get through the road border back into Switzerland - plus allow 5 minutes to buy the Vignette from the border post (use cash!).
Return is a bit more difficult due to lack of good signing but not impossible - convenient petrol station for fuel top up just by the airport road.
All cars hired had chains but no winter tyres - just like driving your UK car really.
Top tip - to get to the French side, go through the main baggage reclaim, turn left & take the escalator/lift to the departures floor, turn right and keep walking until you see some glass sliding doors & the border sign (NB you may need to show your passport again so keep it handy) - go through and you are on the French side by the car hire desks.
Swiss side - the car hire desks are now a fair walk away from the baggage reclaim area and in my experience long queues/waits when you get there (probably a result of more people booking cars on the Swiss side) - once you have the keys, you then need to get on a bus to take you to the car park - again another wait plus effort in loading & unloading (not good when you have bags, skis, etc) - you then have to find the car which is also difficult due to the shear numbers compared to the French side. Plus is that you have near direct access to the motorway (there are a few traffic lights to get through) & you have the vignette, chains, snow tyres, etc.
Return is straight forward with good access/sign posting off the motorway - there is also a small petrol station beneath the hotel before the hire car park - but you then have to catch the bus back to the main terminal - more waiting, loading/unloading again.
Overall nothing much to separate the two in terms of time or convenience - only real differentiator is cost & whether you want winter tyres & whether you are going to France or Switzerland.
As I always go to Flaine, deep down I think the French side works better for me but I'd probably feel the opposite if I was going to a Swiss resort (provided the cost was not prohibitive)
Hope this helps
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 Poster: A snowHead
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janner, I find it easier to walk to the car parks than to wait for the bus. I am not alone either. Smile
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janner wrote:
... only real differentiator is cost & whether you want winter tyres

The lack of winter tyres is the deal breaker for me. Wouldn't want to drive to any highish resort on standard tyres.
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beequin wrote:
janner, I find it easier to walk to the car parks than to wait for the bus. I am not alone either. Smile


Nope, and have done the short walk with luggage trolley and kids, not difficult at all.
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Boredsurfing wrote:
beequin wrote:
janner, I find it easier to walk to the car parks than to wait for the bus. I am not alone either. Smile


Nope, and have done the short walk with luggage trolley and kids, not difficult at all.


Agreed. Far easier to do the short walk than faff with luggage and kids onto and off the bus.
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"janner, I find it easier to walk to the car parks than to wait for the bus. I am not alone either." Smile


We did too until we discovered - quite by accident - a little car hire gem which has newly started operating from Geneva Airport. Just waiting to test it out a second time in September and will then, if it's as good as our first experience in July, reveal all!! Loatie
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Holy Thread Resurrection Happy


We are off to the Three Valleys in February next year. Plane gets us from the UK into Geneva where we need to hire a car

i'll sort out paying for chains or winter tyres so thats not an issue

whats best though? hire from the french side because we'll be going into france?

just wondered if anything had changed since this thread was created.....
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i think i've worked it out (replying to my own question)!

hire on the swiss side so you get winter tyres as standard
tell the hire company you are going to go into france when you book it
they give you a EU registered car rather than a Swiss car
Bobs Your Uncle
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Having the Swiss vignette is another advantage - it's really much easier to buzz in and out through the Bardonnex border on the motorway than to get lost in Geneva. I am renting a car at Geneva in October - there was virtually no difference between the French and Swiss sides - tiny differences varied, according to the class of car.
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My brother in law, who is half Italian, half French and has flown in and out if Geneva several times a year his whole life missed his flight last week as his iphone could adequately navigate him to the French return desk.... (he had left things a little late, must be said...)
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The last time booked a car hire the Swiss side was significantly cheeper than the French side.

Personally I find the French side much more convenient and cannot really understand how anyone couldn't find Ferney Voltaire. @under a new name, what software was your brother in law using?
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I just booked a trip to Geneva for October so have hired a car for 4 days. The prices between the Swiss and French sides for an Opel Corsa are:

French £109
Swiss £172

A £63 difference. It is really worth while actually looking at both sides
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@johnE, i think there was a bit of a comms issue between navigator and driver Embarassed
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JONR wrote:
i think i've worked it out (replying to my own question)!

hire on the swiss side so you get winter tyres as standard
tell the hire company you are going to go into france when you book it
they give you a EU registered car rather than a Swiss car
Bobs Your Uncle


That's what I am doing in January. I found no price difference and the advantage of winter tyres (which are in any case compulsory, where we are going - Aosta valley).
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We normally hire from the CH side to visit Chatel, but this summer we decided to rent from the French side for a trip to Annecy to test it for winter. Never again!! Additional passport control at the airport, congested car rental desk area, confusing road directions in and out or airport, additional border control near the airport. Only positive I can see is there is a manned petrol station near the airport. It was probaby cheaper and our car already had a vignette which saved costs and time getting onto the motorway to Annecy.
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If you don't get chains from the rental place then how easy/cheap is it to get a set on a Saturday evening?
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Quote:

winter tyres (which are in any case compulsory, where we are going - Aosta valley).

Not compulsory @Ozboy- chains are OK on the north Italian motorways. But of course, winter tyres are better. @SnoodlesMcFlude You could probably get chains at a supermarket or "Feu Vert". there's a Feu Vert very near the French airport entry (turn left out of the barbed-wired road out, then right at the round about - right at next roundabout). Be sure to take note of the tyre size! Don't know what time they shut but the big supermarket at the same "centre commerciale" will sell chains too.

You can't always get chains at the French rental desk - even if you ask for them in advance. And you don't ALWAYS get chains on the Swiss side - and there are times when you will be required to fit chains on your winter tyres. Especially on busy and snowy transfer days.
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I hired from the French side last month when out climbing, I nearly missed my flight because of difficulties finding the entrance to the French side on return. Seemingly the hire desk spends all day answering calls from lost customers. I eventually abandoned the car at the Swiss side....
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If you are going to hire from the French side I'd recommend spending 30 mins on Google Maps street view plotting your route back. I reckon I know Geneva airport surroundings pretty well but I went wrong once and had to circle round and start again.

And whilst we're on the subject, what's with all the road signs saying 'France'. Just about anywhere you go from Geneva is in the direction of France. How about telling us which bit of France?!
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Think I may end up on the Swiss side now. Most the deals seemed to be £100 cheaper on the French side but managed to find something through work that gets a better price.

Is it really that difficult to get to France? With mobile data being able to use abroad I'd have thought it's easy just to set the sat nav on a phone.
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It's not the getting to France that people get wrong. It's the getting from Switzerland to the French side of the airport to drop the car off again. Your phone Sat Nav will do it OK, but you do need to have researched where to set it to go to!
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Quote:

Your phone Sat Nav will do it OK, but you do need to have researched where to set it to go to!

True. You need to go to Ferney Voltaire - where the entrance to the French sector of the airport is just north of the border post. You must resolutely ignore all signs to the airport until you have driven under the runway and through the border into Ferney.
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Is it really that difficult to get to France?

Not at all. As @pam w, says look for Ferney Voltaire. Once at the airport you do not need to get a shuttle bus to get to the terminal and if you only have hand luggage it is a very quick stroll airside. In my experience about 30 minutes quicker than the Swiss side.
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